Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Epiphany/Antiphany II. - What Started It All

NOTE: Read Epiphany/Antiphany I. Before Reading This

Saturday the 16th: The day the semester came to an end at Purdue. The day of Enduring Freedom, so to speak. Jasper and Bert, two exchange students who'd landed at Purdue for a semester long holiday, were leaving on Monday. So was Mario, headed to the tropics/semitropics of Sydney. I, in turn, missed celebrating my birthday the previous Sunday. And the exams got over. All a cause for a party Saturday night.

The thing began pretty low-key. There was the Chinese guy, Mario and Bert and Jas, and somebody else. We drank a bit, and wondered where S was. Jas mentioned S as having been with C for a while, since like Thanksgiving. Ears pricked up a bit. S was my neighbour and I'd met C at a common statistics class. I'd seen 'em dance at a party together, and they seemed to hit it off pretty well......

More rum. Jasper mentioned the Bloody Mary, and I explained the Patiala Peg, and how Punjabis and Haryanvis were the toughest drinkers in the country. Jasper mixed up one, using Tomato juice, vodka ad Tabasco sauce. Too much Tabasco. Way too much Tabasco.

Phone rings "Jasper's room, party in progress. If you're a really hot girl, come right along..." Jasper snatched the thing before I could really step on it. It's S. He's with a group of Germans... at C's place. They're coming over in a bit. The mention of C raises a couple of eyebrows. Jasper gives the knowing smile. At times like this, I often feel like a dick, sitting around with a set of guys winking and tapping the sides of their noses at each other, like the character roster of 'Desperate Housewives' in their 70s or 80s, in connection with some dude's dalliances. The right thing to do is to carry out dalliances of one's own (I'm not sure that's grammatically correct), or shut the fuck up.

But still, something niggles at me about this. I haven't put my finger on it. It could be I'd like a shot at C (if I knew how to take one) and resent S's aim, and probably is. But no, something else in addition......

Vodka. Somebody named Olivia (girl, but of no real or imagined consequence). Green Apple vodka and 7Up. Citrus Rum and Sprite. Bottles of wine poured out in small quantities. I hate wine. Belgian beer - truly the foulest tasting drink in the world, probably what the writers of the Koran drank when deciding whether or not to forbid alcohol. Basement Jaxx and Nirvana. Jasper's computer has Windows in Belgian.

Germans arrive. S and C take the lead. Arm in arm, smiling in that way that looks great in sitcoms and silly in movies. S is a somewhat short, muscular chap with frizzled spiky hair that stands up on a permanent basis. He's got a long rectangular face, and teeth that look like they should be sharp and pointy, but aren't. Sort of a snazzy soccer Brit meets R. L. Stevenson pirate. He talks English with this weird colonial accent, like Australian or South African commentators on ESPN/Star Sports and Tamil - believe it or not, he's a colony-bred TamBram - slowly and with great care.

C however, is who I really focus on, even through the slight glaze of ol' C2H5OH coursing through the system. She's the right height - can't call it anything else. Semi-silvery blonde hair. She's got a sharp nose and a set of sparkling teeth, the kind that you'd use a Colgate/Henko mixture on. Full lips that make a really wide and pretty smile. Most significantly, very impressive, very full and very German cleavage. Her sweater right now kind of emphasizes 'em. Wolfenstein ramparts with loaded artillery (As with my California posts, absolute deference to any girls who may read this). I wonder for a bit, what if she notices me letching?

The rest of the party is now kind of a drunken haze, the kind Hunter S. Thompson wrote about when discussing the Kentucky derby. I end up setting next to C (Woohoo!!) and S (D'oh!!). Small talk.

"Haven't seen you in a hell of a while" I say, smiling through the alcohol blear.

"Been at her place for like a month or so" S says

The rest of the conversation follows suit with the rest of the party. Haze all the way, or at least, I fail to remember it at this point.

I'm still observing the two though. The introductions are over, and everyone's talking his/her neighbour, so this is when the two can withdraw from the general conversation. They're making out, like the Foresters from the "B and the B". There's a bit of that squeaky-clicky noise from annoying won't-cut-to-the-chase-read-"do it"-romance scenes, drowned out greatly by Jasper's yell at seeing his goodbye card.

It's when I see C on S's lap, and his kissing his way up and down her neck (very "Sun TV"ish, yet the mouse is squiggling about the house, to paraphrase Gunther's season 2/3 quip), and further down, that I remember what's been niggling me. The conversation I interrupted in S's room. With another girl. By Videomail/Skype from London. Who, I remember his mentioning now, was his fiancee (sans the French caps, you can't put 'em in this word processor). Whom he was supposed to tie the knot with in May.

With many emotions and points of view in mind "Jumping Jesus on a Pogo Stick!!!"

I am being a grade A fuckwad, sitting around reporting this stuff to your burning ears, instead of sowing about my own wild oats. Yet I cannot avoid being fascinated by this situation. As I said, I do feel a certain pique in that it's S and not self that's leaving the party right now with C (keeping the party and this post PG-13 while the real A/R/X stuff continues elsewhere, no doubt). At the same time, the complications that must inevitably arise from this boggle me.

S is somebody I respect to a certain extent. A fiancee across the ocean and a hot German this side - kind of a very successful anti-Eurotrip or something. But what does the fiancee thing mean now? If it takes a semester to cheat on/break engagements, what the fuck do they mean anyway? And I despise the guy a bit - I mean, transgressing is a pig's job, however fun it sounds or feels like. Or should I follow Hunter S's maxim of non-judgement "Never fuck with a friend's head. Who are you to tell a friend he shouldn't change his name, desert his family and join a Satanist cult in New Orleans?" Or forget his engagement, developing tunnel vision for a set of well-formed bazoombas?

I wonder what C knows? What she's thinking? What will be conclusion of this - I can see people's fascination with reality TV in a new light now - entanglement. Are the two in one of those open-thingies which will end next sem? Are they permanent? If no, does C know what's gonna happen eventually? How's she going to take it? Will I get to assault the ramparts eventually?

I am in a world I see but don't touch. Damnation.............

There are many things I don't understand about life in general. The foremost of these things I don't understand is love - to be specific, the romantic stuff that one would associate with Tom Hanks, "boy meets girl", Bryan Adams music, chocolate in heart shaped boxes, proms and credit-roll music at the end of college movies.

What don' t I understand? What does the damn thing entail and what does it not? What elements constitute it, in what balance, and what would constitute an overdose? And the foremost of these 'tattva's that I find complicated is sexuality.

What precise role does sex play in the relationship that develops out of romantic love? Is it something you ought to permanently seek? The strongest glue between people, as Tarun Tejpal likes to put it? Or is it something that sets in after the touchy feely stuff has taken a good strong hold, the way people who never get any in the sitcoms religiously believe?

Concordantly, how strong is the emotion of love or whatever? Is it a superstructure built on a Hegelian base of transience and inconsistency? My next post is the basis for this - it is the source of my epiphany/antiphany (I know, there's no such word yet), but I use it with a semantic purpose) . But in the meantime, think about it and let me know.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

My First Time

No, NO NO!! I am not putting up the details of my first sexual experience up here. For starters, it isn't something I'd put up on a blog, and for another......well let's leave the other alone for now, shall we ? Anyway, the above describes what means - or should mean if it doesn't - as much to a young man as his first amorous encounter. The latter involves soft classical/boy band music, a girl/s built on the lines of hopefully Scarlet Johannson and/or Rachel Bilson, some really awesome line to pull about one feels about her or what he/she did for her and a nice secluded spot to work off the mutual melding of emotional and physical highs. What I'm about to describe involves a complete stranger (and in my category, a male), music playing in one's head alone on the lines of "Blood in My Eyes" and/or "Eye of the Tiger", a good deal of locomotion from place to place, and a lot (I mean lot) of kicking. Yep, that's what I'm talking about. My first taekwondo sparring duel. In short, my first post adolescent fight.

When we're kids, fights are simple. I'm pissed - I fight. My brother is pissed - I fight with him. The guy who didn't get his turn to play Contra is pissed - we both fight him. I hit, I get hit, somebody cries and an adult comes around to chide us all for being 'childish' - sometimes that adjective can have violent connotations.

But when we're adolescents, fights can get serious. I mean, for starters people run around a good deal, and its harder to catch them - you look and feel stupid chasing some guy around the place. Secondly, this is the stage when you can seriously hurt others. And lastly, at this point the adults might turn out to be cops. So what with one thing and another, I hadn't been in a fight for a hell of a while. I'm referring to a fight in the strictest physical sense - I've had hundreds of spats and arguments.

Not that I'm Rambo or Rocky or one of those dudes from Highlander, but the absence of violence has somewhat taken a toll on me. All said and done, nothing really beats a fight, a physical opposition, when you're at loggerheads with someone. Nothing toughens you up more. Had I been more of a fighter, I might have taken a more proactive stance with my tennis game. Had I been more of a combative type I might have been more aggressive and effective as an enforcing prefect. And so on and so forth. All said and done, I've been a wooss for the past 5 years or so, and that's because of no fighting the previous decade.

So anyway, my woossiness manifested itself upon the announcement of the tournament. My initial thought was to flee the Club, the University and possibly the Country after that. It didn't help that the Club instructor told us all we had to participate, and that he started sparring practice in class with the black-belts for everyone (I am a humble green. Grasp the situation). Considering my performance at the no-contact practice, I could only shudder in horror at what the real thing would be like.

Fast forward a month. My better self, which manifests at possibly the stupidest times, caused me to pay the 15$ entry fee in advance, from which point I was forced forward by the reproachful glances my family would give me if they knew I spent 15$ on nothing. Better spend it on a beating.

And so came Saturday. I got up, dressed, and prayed to Ganesha with an intensity that had last come during the JEE. Proceeding to the Sports Hall at Purdue, I waited through the initial formalities and forms demonstration. When the time came to be counted among the Yellow/Green belt students, the queasiness that had been a sort of background sensation, now began to claim the limelight of perception. I was queasy and queasier, till I recognized the particular nature of this queasiness. It was something I'd experienced before my first elocution contest, and which I still feel before any presentation or debate. It was/is a kind of nervous energy. Nervousness. Not fear. Not fully. Half of it is, yes. But the other half is, well, excitement.


This is starting to sound like a standard Literotica S&M plot where a girl screams at being whipped, but then decides she likes it. But it's true. It has been a long time since I had a fight, and confrontation being so wholly new, I was scared. But it being new, I was also excited. I'm gonna kick somebody proper. And that was good.

I didn't win any medals. Two lousy rounds and I lost. But fuck I was in a fight. A FIGHT. I took on somebody and I came out. And more importantly, I wasn't scared of another round. Which revealed something to me - something about winning or losing. People, including myself, judge winning and losing by the prizes that are available for handout, and who finally gets them. This sort of thing extends to everything in life, and it's empty, it's false and it's the cause for so much internal conflict.

Winning is the warm sense of joy, that lifts you from the ground. It lifts you when you're on that podium with the prize, knowing you're numero uno. But winning is also the sense of insight that tells you why you're not on the podium; the knowledge together with a certain pique that kind of wash you over like an ice cold shower, with a warm determination to be there next time. Losing is simply not knowing what to feel, cuz it means you were never into the game to begin with.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Strange Rumblings on Chauncey Hill

Having gotten up too late to make my own coffee, and run out of milk, I was forced this morning to bike along State St. to the fork opposite Chauncey Hill, to pick up some milk, and a morning mocha. As I emerged on Grant Street, near the University Bookstore crossing, I stumbled upon the first of several strange sights. A Saturday morning on October is when you’d expect to see, well, commuters who have to commute on Saturday, the dudes who run stores and stuff, ghissu-type students hurrying off to their respective labs, and those fitness freaks who jog about all over the place wearing spandex-like tight shorts, whatever the weather (this last group is one to watch out for if female). What you don’t expect to see is a set of guys dressed up as an umpire, a priest and an anthropomorphic cup. Make that a drunken anthropomorphic cup.


I mean, it is Halloween, but that’s like a nighttime gig. The spirit of the festival or whatever would have to be one of those dark B-movie gods, planning to infect entire populations so as to gather its essence from the fevered worship of their tarnished souls and virgin sacrifices or something. Proceeding along State St. brought further such surprises. I encountered a Pope, a vampire, a ballot box of some sort, and a kissing both charging 50¢ per kiss (Given the guy who wore it, it was a very, very hard sell). Girls were a little better to look at – a bewitching witch, a nurse (whose ministrations looked eternally welcome), a clown of some sort, and a pirate captain in miniskirts. All of them, by the way, gathered around the bar areas. All of them squealing and shrieking and cheering. For a second, I let the sounds wash through my cranium and then understand the true meaning of “Wine, women and song” that the Prodigal Son had had such a predilection for. All this, while a must-see for us Indian engineering grad students whose formative years have been wasted in the madrassa of a tutoring class, was nevertheless quite mystifying.

I gathered the essence of what was happening at the coffee shop. Purdue was due to take on Penn State later in the day, and in honor/anticipation of the match, the tradition of the “Breakfast Club” had kicked in. The bars of State St would open as early as 7.00 am, and people would actually drag themselves out of bed – or I suppose proceed to the bar from wherever else they had been partying, and start a raucous booze party. In costume. In the morning. With girls. My children are NOT NOT NOT going to do their undergraduate degrees in India.

Returning, I see more people come out, now proceeding towards the stadium. Particularly amusing was a gang of four girls holding up a fifth, who had the expression one of those concussion victims have when you hold a finger in front of them and ask how many they see.

Also visible are a set of ladies and gents, of above 40, cheering for either University and also processing to the stadium, emerging from bars. Depending on your viewpoint, this is marvelous, marvelously pathetic, or both.

The morning was marked with joy and celebration – Purdue lost miserably though. The evening will be marked more so. There will be costume balls and Halloween parties. More slutty nurses, kinky pirates and catwomen and vampy vampires. More color, costumes, drinking and possibly birds-and-beesing.

I have homework. I have no costume. I am not an undergraduate, nor a member of a student frat. I am damned. Damned. Damned. Damned. Like those characters who wear thick glasses and shut themselves in rooms, and turn out to be axe-killers. And to make matters worse, my assignment sheet has typos in it, so I wont be able to do all of it now – just enough to keep me away from the fun. Play tragic organ music.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Close Encounters with "Original Sin"

Before I begin, this has nothing to do with the sexually charged Angelina Jolie movie (or, if you're a girl, sexually charged Antonio Banderas movie). My post this time is regarding the concept of Original Sin - the reason mankind must either roast in a lake of fire when the world Ends, or be subjected to badgering by Christian fundies, or in all probability, both.

I was walking to Math class in the afternoon about a week ago, when I came across the oddest gathering I could imagine. Seeing as Purdue clubs haven't finished their call-outs and such, my initial thought was that this was some call out - I mean there could be any number of clubs which involve red T-shirts and Banners reading "Christ says" vs. "Satan says". Returning after Math class, I percieved however, that the club also involved wearing shirts that said "Homos are Going to Hell" while yelling something from a bound book. Naturally piqued, I came within earshot (and within sight of the banners, which described numerous paths to hell that I haven't the space here for, and which Satan apparently freely professes and Christ denounced). The man in question was mentioning the pathway to heaven, with the alternate option of hell. The word of Christ apparently, was the only password through the firewall surrounding the former. "But you want to reject Christ" the firebrand exclaimed "You wish to exchange him for your homosexuality and your AIDS and your false religions (This caused my ears to prick up). Buddha and Islam? I tell you friend, (Which howla would be this kook's friend, I wonder) following Buddha will land you with him in the lake of fire. So will following Islam and all the other.......(This was where I decided to push off)"

A similar encounter occured this evening on my way back from dinner. The weekend being Homecoming weekend, there's a hell of a lot of celebration on campus, read getting drunk and insanely going "Eeeeee.....". Like any decent South Indian grad student, I chose to go for a quiet dinner at a complex some distance away from the maddening crowd. Returning however, while waiting for the light to change (Here you can't cross streets till the light is actually red) I bumped - quite literally - into a second gang of the "Salesmen of Salvation" or "Transmittors of the Truth" or "Promulgators of the holy Prose" or whatever it is they call themselves. Politely, one of the Knights of the New Testament asked me if I knew what Christ did for me. To my polite answer in the negative, together with a "No thanks" when he offered to tell me what he did do, he broke out into a long quotation from the Book of Revelations or something, one of those things that discuss the fate of infidels, and where they're going to roast for all eternity.

The whole thing leaves me irritated, though typical of an Indian, my response was to say "Yes No Sorry Thanks" and push off. To their credit, the majority of the people there (at both gatherings) laughed openly at the Gospel Ghissu Gang present. Who are these chaps to tell me where my soul is going to go? Apart from the word of a book, one of many dating to its time, what do they base their horrible prophecies on? What paticularly annoys me is the talk of "false religion" viz. [Christianity]', in the superset of all beliefs and ways of life. Sure, I'm a beef eater despite my thread, but I pray to Krishna, Vishnu and Shiva. I don't believe in castes and rituals, but I freely subscribe to the contemplations of Sankaracharya and the Dvaita/Advaita theories as to the soul. I have no idea as to where my soul goes after I die, and I don't take reincarnation as a fact, but I believe in my Paati, in her prayers and her love of Goluus and her steadfast belief in the Vishnu Sahasranama. How can I do all this? Because Hinduism, unlike any other faith in the world, has no set of centralized cardinal points that all must prescribe to. In essence, its a faith that mirrors the rest of your life and your actions. Who is a frustrated thumper of a book of a few thousand pages that is meant to carry the word of the Infinite Being to tell me its all false?

Fundie Christianity is like the faith of the Sith "If you're not with me, you're my enemy" is the mantra of the God fundies pray to. Curse them all. May the fleas of a thousand camels feast on the parting between their legs!!!!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Classic Issue

Having just completed a month or so at Purdue, I'd started to slide into the usual rut. There's homework to be done before such and such a date, lab work on such and such days and papers to be read for such and such a purpose. All said and done, nice comfy routine. I was quite rudely shaken when I saw Arjun's pics.

For those who don't know, Arjun "Lopa" Nagarajan is a civil eng. student from the class of 2006. His significance is far greater to the batch (Remember Varad's statement - "Yeh to apna 'Almost G-sec' hain") Having managed to somehow complete 4 years in IIT G with his wits about him, Arjun joined Schlumberger, the exploration giant on the look out for engineers, and he technically possessing a B.Tech degree. He's currently based in Alexandria, monitoring oil drilling in the desert before moving on to other things. If things go well, it'll be Sudan in a while, and who knows, Congo,South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia, East Pacific, hell, the Moon if they find petrol there.

Precisely what niggles me is the thought of what he's doing. Sure, like I said, things are cool, but there's no real red-hot feeling in it. Not like what's aroused when you think of pottering about the desert in Giza - that would be red-hot, one way or another. The thought of Lopa out there makes me not a little green.

Which brings me to the classic issue that all youth like me face viz. what precisely is it that we lie doing? What is the calling? What is that mystical thing that is our gift, our art, the thing with which we can really make a mark in our lifetime?

More importantly, how precisely do you find it? There are some of chaps (like Pesh) who know exactly what htye're gonna do from Class X. But for those who don't - what is the way? I mean, unless you follow a floating star to a bow and arrow or a music sheet and a guitar or a laboratory with chemicals in it, how do you know what is your thing? The only solution that really occured to me was to sample stuff, and then figure out what appeals to me the most - which is essentially what I am doing now. But then can you really sample EVERYTHING? I mean scuba diving and professional tennis and piloting an aircraft and conserving tigers and making ice cream and herding cattle and acting in porn films and so on and so forth. You'd have to be an Orochimaru of sorts [Refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orochimaru_%28Naruto%29#Background to understand what I'm saying] to do that, which can't be very good for your psyche or physically possible.

Fear lurks at me

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Greatest Discovery Possible

Being in the same batch as Ranga who's a genius (period) and VP who can drive himself suddenly to immense activity, I must confess to a certain sense of inadequacy in my 4th year as far as the BTP was concerned. I mean, these guys did stuff. I tried hard, but no rolled-up Havana tobacco, if you know what I mean. My sense of inadequacy was driven out today by my discovery. To all those of the class of 2006, especially biotech guys, I have discovered at Purdue something impossible to replicate with a lifetime of research at MIT. What, you ask? A new protein? A system processor? A Philosopher's Stone? A Chillum that never empties? A way to whack it 30 successful times an hour? I met, on my very first day, a Jhaavar!! Not just somebody with the teeth and crooked smile. I met someone with the same teeth, the same scoffing laugh, the same shifty glance like a rat's and a pig's simultaneously, the same tendency to butt in on other's conversation to dispense unwanted advice, the same depth of delusion as to one's infinite "cool"ness and the same voice. I have yet to carry out the ultimate experiment - I have not asked this Jhavar to explain something to me, stating in between that I did not "get the point", but all other tests show conclusively, that yes, there are two Jhaavars in this world. Or rather, seeing as this one's a girl, a Jhaavar and a Jhaavarin. Not Nobel prize-winning stuff, but a sure statement as to the wonders that this world can hold. A scary thought - Jhaavar is a mere three hours away at UIUC. What if he meets Jhaavarin, and they produce a new race - Homo Jhaavariens, super-Jhaavars, pureblood Jhaavars or something?
Grad School Gazetteering: Pottering about Purdue (My first day)

For those of you who missed the racy tone and salacious narration of the California diaries, I'm back!! Pardon my absence, it took a while to get hold of the adequate resources - the combination of network access and a computer of your own at precisely the time when you're both jobless enough and in the mood for writing. Presented hereforth are some odd vignettes about Purdue and Indiana:

15th of August: Was quite suprised, (and not very pleasantly) to find that the Indian student's association had organized a celebration function for Independence day. There was a flag hosting, anthem singing, some community song-and-dance (both literally and figuratively), and most importantly, free Indian food. Found out all this after the whole thing was over (having just moved in all my stuff, free pseudo-Indian food wasnt quite a priority). The whole thing got me pondering - loving one's home (as in where you live, your village and town and state, hell if you've lived all over the place, your entire country) is one thing, but it doesn't quite equate to flag hosting and anthem-singing en-masse in a foreign university. Kind of jingoistic, and more than slightly saccharine. I mean, we all know we're Indians, we all know our country threw off the shackles of the evil Britishers this day 55 years ago, but is this something to celebrate seven seas away? Call me oddly conservative, but flags and anthems are standards to be borne on their own soil, not elsewhere. If you want to emphasize your Indianness to such an extent, why'd you leave home to begin with? The whole thing reminded me of that Karan Johar movie - K3G, where Ridiculous Roshan teaches his nephew the Jana Gana Mana and makes him sing it in front of the whole school, moving his parents to tears and so on?

Endnote: 98% of those who attended would have done so for the free food and 1.99 of the rest for the additional community get together thing, so I guess the virus of jingoism would not be all that prevalent. I just hope to find the main K3G-esque initiator - the main host to the disease - so I can stay as far away from the hypocrite as possible.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The California Diaries: A Well Stacked Breakfast

Ok, so the walk was really great. Seeing as it's Sunday morning, and Mami's out of town, it's time to get breakfast the man's way - go to a restaurant.

We drive out of Saratoga, and make our way through Cupertino. There's a whole slew of little towns around here - Cupertino, Palo Alto, Saratoga, Mountain View, Campbell, Los Gatos and so on. They house the people who rake in the moolah at San Jose (guess what? they pronounce it "Hoseiy") and San Fransisco. People here are tech-oriented, highly educated, very smart and snazzily rich - you can see Silicon Valley written all over them.

Crossing into the town of Campbell, we make for its Downtown. Mama explains that each of these towns have a Downtown section, a place where all the commercial activity takes place viz. where all the malls and restaurants are. We're headed for Stack's, a very popular All-American breakfast and lunch joint. We park at a turning ahead of the place. The sight of at least 8 people standing before us at the entrance marks out both Stacks' popularity and the wait we're likely to have, having come past 10 am on a Sunday morning. The guy at the entrance tells us we're gonna have to wait around an hour at the outset. As we walk around outside to kill time we're pleasantly surprised at the sight before us.

It's Sunday, and the Downtown Road end has been let for a farmer's fair. The street is filled with stalls of people selling fruits and vegetables (processed and raw), meat, fish and food products like jam, pickles etc. The first stall is a hot dog stand, selling 4 different old favourites. Going down we see a bagel joint, a fishmonger of sorts, and a fruit-seller. The man sells plums of a variety that look and taste like apples. I forget what he called them.

We come across this almond vendor. 50 types of roasted and treated almonds - honey roasted, stir fried, plain roasted and so on. He's got a set of 7-8 jars that have these almonds in 'em, and you can try a sample. Mama ppoints out one, and we all take a couple from it. Hey, the flavouring is some sort of exotic Mexican thing, but it' s exactly like masala. And the almonds add a richness you don't find in peanuts. I happily tilt the jar again and take around 8, before Mama reminds me that these are free "samples", and in the US, there is an unspoken definition of a "sample" as being way less than that!!

Further down, more stuff and more people. There's this old African guy with a space to himself. He's got a mike and a banjo, and is making the most of both. A couple of mid-40's ladies are helping him out with the vocals. I suddenly notice, the guy's also got percussion plates attached to his legs or knees. For a second he reminds me of Dick Van Dyke from Mary Poppins.

We're at this preserves shop. The sign says "Preserved Apricots and Honeyed Products" or something. Mama doesn't notice and moves on. I take notice, not of the maal being sold but of this semi-Mexican girl with brownish hair there. Smooth skin, round face and incredible suntan. Very curvaceous figure. Thick black hair that goes around the face like Eve Mendes'. My cousin stops at the stand next to it and picks up a packet of fresh strawberries. He points them out. My mind however isn't on strawberries or apricots. With all deference to any girls or ladies who might read this, it's on another fruit altogether!!

Anyway, about half an hour has passed. We make our way back to the restaurant, deciding to take pot luck. Another 40 minutes, but it's possible somebody with a reservation (made half an hour ago) might not show up. So we wait. Conversation revolves around California as a State. I am freaked at leavingthis place. I'm heading off shortly to a place with 6 months of -20 degrees winter. What in God's name am I doing, leaving this land of milk and honey behind (pun intended, btw) ?

While waiting inside, I see more clearly, and comfortably, the female forms amidst those waiting and those helping out at the restaurant. It's summer, so places like these would be hiring a lot of students to do stuff. And unlike India, cafe waiters do not belong to the bottom social rung occupied by domestic help (Hell, in US domestic help occupy a very high social rung).
There's a lot of young girls around. I see this white girl with her family ( Should I have said family with this daughter? ). She has brown hair, greyish blue eyes and a rare smoothness of skin colour (Oh yeah, a hell of a lot of Americans tend to turn spotted and pinkish in the sun. Being from the tropics definitely helps the complexion). First thing noticeable are her shorts - they're called Daisy Dukes - cutoffs that end, quite beautifully, way above her knee. Way way above. And to make life better, she has slim muscular legs, worth an occasional letch. Again, all deference to those girls and ladies who might read this. Anyway, my eyes work their way up, and when her top is reached, "Stack" is less of a cafe name and more of an aesthetic theme for the surrounding environment, like a Firefox skin.

I sit and ogle comfortably, turning back to join in the conversation in between. I ask my cousin out of faint curiosity "Do people always dress like that without the least self-consciousness ?" He looks at the subject in question, grins and replies in the affirmative. Apparently, they have to impose dress codes at school to prevent this there. God's Own Country.

The waiter takes our orders. My cousin's going for a burrito with eggs, and my uncle for pancakes. I decide to try something unique. "Belgian waffles" I say "Banana and Pecan nuts" I say Pecan like Bacon. Mama tells me its pronounced "payk-aun". More work due on pronounciation. Here, 'how' isn't pronounced "How", but "Haaouw", so it rhymes with "Hu Jintao"!!!

While we're waiting, my roving eye now falls upon the girl at the cash register. This one's slim too, with Emma Watson-esque hair, and very cute spectacles (wtf am I saying?). She's very animated, moving about telling other waiters and waitresses what to do, taking bills, punching cards and stuff. My cousin tells me she's probably a college student. Interesting, not just her figure and looks, but also the idea of summer jobs there vs. here.

Belgian waffles are incredible. They're covered with whipped cream and fruit. Terrific eating. One word of advice, however. Don't eat the fruit first, and then the waffles and cream. The mixture is terrifically rich. So rich, it starts to make you green around the gills a bit.

Mocha coffee follows to wash down the meal. I sigh in satisfaction. Cool weather, brilliant sunshine, hot girls and great food. What more can life really offer?

Monday, August 07, 2006

The California Diaries: A Walk in the Park....

Jet lag still not worn off... majorly unable to sleep in the morning. Got up at 5.30 am, waited in my room till about 10 minutes, and got out. Moped about the house till Mama made tea. Tea major disappointment. You'd think the tea here would be some sort of ambrosia that had the flavour of rainbows and tasted like lightning and actuall had the effect you see on TV. No such effect. More importantly, the tea's just Brooke Bond. Damn. Globalization sucks the exotic out of everything.

Mama's house is a bungalow. Its got a lawn with automated sprinklers, a lovely entrance gate, and a garage door that opens with a remote. Walls are made of wood. All around are similar houses. Variety of colours and sizes. Typical suburban environment. Haven't met any Brees, Edies or Gabrielles as yet, though.

Went for an hour long walk in the hills. Freemont Older Open Space Preserve. One of the more impressive things about actually planning out your suburbs, and in the process, keeping specific designated forest areas, is that you can have both developed living area with all the frills and thickly forested nearby hills for the simpler pleasures. Drove there (Get in on the right side of the car when not driving - need to get used to this. And to fastening your seatbelt whenever you drive). Incredible place. Twenty minutes from Saratoga's Stewart Court suburb, though I have no real idea as to the roads taken. Another impressive factor about this preserve - it's big enough to hold deer, and their population is so high as to cause them to migrate into the suburbs at times (I actually saw one en route). Most impressive of all - its all clean grounds and woods, with no plastics, glass bottles or Kurkure packets. This really is God's own country.

Hiked upto Maisie's Peak, within that Preserve. Lovely view from the top. You can see the central Spire of Stanford University, and this huge baseball field which, I think belongs to UC Santa Clara (This is Santa Clara District btw). The city of San Fransisco is within this huge bay, into which the Pacific flows. The bay is surrounded by hills, and kind of cut off as a geographical feature. As it's a bay, the district is called, the Bay Area.

Came back home.......

Will describe breakfast on my next post.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Summer being what it is, specially after college and more specially in a fucked-up city like Chennai where cable requires a set-top box and an analingus performed on the cable-guy, life's revolved around the DVD player. Just finished watching the Dollars Trilogy, and some old classics. Here's something to think about from "Chariots of Fire"

For those who don't know, CoF is an Academy Award winning picture from 1981. It's most well-known to us, as the source of a theme pirated to depict Moon-Moon or Suchitra Sen cavorting with Kabir Bedi in "Khoon Bhari Mang". The film deals with the English athletes at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Specifically, it depicts the emotions, attitudes and rivalries of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell (both real life gold-medallists). The former, a Jew, is a defensive and pugnacious athlete. He's ruthless and willing to go beyond the whole nine yards to win, yet is insecure deep within about his abilities and his place in society. He runs to prove his worth. The latter, a missionary Christian by the side, runs for the glory of God (sounds woolly-headed but there you are), lectures people after his races, and holds his prowess as a means to drawing more people to God. The film focusses on their background, their preparations and their responses to adversity, bringing in a twist two-thirds into the plot.

More than the theme, more than the plot and its twists, hell more than the acting, what really strikes you is the simplicity of the thing. Its just about two guys. Two rivals at a race. Thats it. There's no romantic angle, there's no cancer or AIDS (which unfortunately, Ian Charleson who portrayed Liddell later died of), and the protagonists are far from the under-dogs with impossible odds against them. Yet, you see a plot that comes out coherently, you hear dialogues that aren't cheesy, and most importantly, you see acting that's genuine. Ben Cross as Abrahams simultaneously oozes grit and fear. You see him in the movie, crushed by defeat. But his portrayal of Abrahams crushed near the end by victory is even more fantastic. His coach tells him "You've won. This is your moment. Enjoy it, and get it out of your system. Then go home and marry that girl of yours" [He's got a girlfriend whose role is small. They meet, they're together, she's worried about his insecurity and in the end they're married. No insults from rivals, no competing with the sport for his time, no telling him she'll love him no matter what and NO NO NO romantic meetings and songs] and you understand, instinctively, what he means. Ian Charleson is even more spectacular as Eric Liddell. His conflict between his duties to the Mission and his committment to the sport (With his reasoning as to where God comes in between) is truly fantastic. More so is his response to the situation at the particular plot twist.

Ok, so it was a good movie; a great movie. So what? Well, here's what. I mentioned Ben Cross. Does that ring a bell? It probably wouldn't, seeing as his next big movie role was in a 1994 flop named "First Knight" and his latest, in the Exorcist sequel of 2004. Neither memorable. Neither noted. Before and since his big screen roles, he's been on mini-series and TV movies and the kind of junk you'd associate with Hack-tha Kapoor and Shitty Irani, but he's still able to deliver when it comes to the sort of thing you'd expect to win the Oscars. Liddell too, was not a big screen man, mostly being a theatre actor. Yet these guys could put any number of B's and Khan's, no matter how big or King-y, to shame.

I mean, what would "Agni ka Rath" be like, if some dude decided to take it on? For starters they'd not see the logic of a Jew protagonist, and the Dalit panthers and what-nots would see red if a movie character were from such a background. So just keep him a poor guy. Nevertheless, he' d arrive in T-shirts, jeans and shades, and would woo the college belle on day one. And the other? Well, priests are passe, sports-priests more so, so hey let's just make the other guy another student, but rich. Ok, cool. Now what about the stakes? Well, it'll have to be the girl (I mean inner turmoil isn't something you can really show) till about half-way through, then one'll have to beat the other up over her, she'll ditch the winner, the loser will sing a couple of "pyaar, jaane bahaar, jeevan-saathi mere" [[This is a tribute to lexicomaniac]] songs, the winner will have him beaten up horribly, and against impossible odds, he'll beat the winner at the race. Seeing as the rich guy's more likely to do this, rich guy is the bad racer, poor guy is the good racer, and while we're at it, throw in some name like "Rajput college" for bad guy and "Model college" for good guy. Plot sound familiar now?

When, oh when, will Bollywood grow up ??

Thursday, July 27, 2006

If I Were the Bollywood Bada Badmaash

Having come across this now really famous list - “If I were the Evil Overlord” (look for it at the “Evil Overlord” Wikipedia entry), I thought this one out. When you really think about it, Bollywood Badmashes are at an all time low, considering how cheesy and ineffective their men, weapons, plans and overall establishments have become. So here’s a guidebook, for all Bollywood Baddies:

(1) My name will be something with as few syllables AND initials in it. The KKs, JKs, DKs and MKs all got killed, as did the Pralaynath Goondaswamis, Madanlal Prakash Singhanias, Jagadmohan Oberois and Devendra Raj Khatris. Nor will bizarre, semi-mystical or pseudo-foreign ones like “Jugraan” or “Dyson/Jackson” be required. Something simple, like Arjun Singh, or Nakul Sood will suffice.

(2) My name will not come with additional titles or sobriquets, like “Daatha Guru”, “Bhai”, “Dada”, “Mauth ka naya naam”, “Baawa – Kisi ko bhi maar saktha hain” etc.

(3) As a special corollary to the above, I will not allow any use of names such as Sher Singh, Sher Khan, Tigerr, Billa etc. Big cats are highly endangered, as will be people named after them.

(4) I will make it a point to have a large and diverse wardrobe, drawing from several clothing styles. You become easy to recognize if you’re the only fellow wearing a suit, a Jodhpur outfit, a banyan and lungi, a sherwani etc.

(5) I will not have a pronounced Bihari, Punjabi or Madrasi accent, nor will I repeatedly toss characteristic English one-liners in between prolonged Hindi speech – these things only add an ill-timed comic effect. Consistent fluency will make for a much more refined and precise Badmaash.

(6) Seeing as I have the money, I will surgically rectify all squints, eye defects, hunches, twitches etc at the beginning. Tall, upstanding men make more frightening Bada Badmaashes than deformed, sickly, maniacal freaks.

(7) Before setting up my operation, I will make it a point to read The Godfather and watch the film trilogy, each at least 5-10 times

(8) My dear, beautiful, innocent daughter, whom I prize above all else will not be sent any “College” in my City, or even the country. She will first attend a Convent School, and then go to Harvard.

(9) Rather than wait for my daughter to fall in love, and then force this whole daulat vs. love thing on her, I’ll make her double major in Engineering and Philosophy, with emphasis laid on Hegel, Sartre and similar existentialists. She’ll never fall in love.

(10) My daughter will be trained to the Black-belt level in at least three martial arts. She will not jhaapad the hero – that leads to hand-catching and eventual romance. She will kick him hard in the nuts.

(11) If after all my effort, my daughter does fall in love with the poor hero, I will not attempt to separate them, throw blank checks in his face or send goondas to beat him up. I will discreetly have him placed in a Bangalore call-centre job with an executive title, tripled salary and solely night-time responsibilities. The IT revolution will take care of their relationship.

(12) My son will be taught the importance of hard work, even to someone in my position. I will not tolerate his loafing around college with thuggish friends. Nor will he go to a “College” college. It will be an IIT for him.

(13) Rather than face the inevitable task of covering up the case every time my son rapes a college girl, I’ll simply send him to an Ivy League university and enrol him in a sorority house there.

(14) I will set myself up as a star promoter/godfather, of the likes of Shakti Kapoor. This will be a simpler way to bring beautiful women willingly into my grasp, compared to going about raping every other female I see.

(15) My underlings will be taught that guns come with sights, which should be used to take aim when firing at a hero.

(16) When dealing with a running/driving/cart wheeling hero, I will aim at a point ahead of him, wait for him to reach it, and fire precisely. Spraying bullets all over the place makes for noisy fireworks, but does not do the job

(17) I will deliberately aim 3 feet higher when firing at a moving hero. This will cause the bullets to hit him, rather than ricochet around his feet.

(18) My underlings will undergo regular training in marksmanship. Anyone who can’t hit a moving target at 10 feet will be shot dead.

(19) Captured enemies will be instantly shot in the head. There will be none of this “dheere-dheere se, tadap-tadap ke” stuff.

(20) When I’ve captured the hero, I’ll shoot him unceremoniously. I will not take him to an open courtyard to be beaten to death, torn apart by animals, crushed by a bulldozer etc. while his family looks on.

(21) I will keep an armory of up-to-date automatic Kalashnikovs, Heckler and Kochs, M16s etc. Neither I nor my men will be using those useless scooter exhaust-pipe things.

(22) When my hit man is aiming at a hero, he will take such precautions as to hide at a secure, elevated point. He will also be instructed to wait till the hero stops moving, and to fire only when he is sure nobody – especially not a girl the hero recently met – is going to approach him and turn his head at a crucial instant. Too many assassination attempts have ended as exercises in shattering glass.

(23) My men and I will be careful and polite with inspectors, however familiar and contemptuous we may be with sub-inspectors, constables and commissioners of police. You can never tell which one is a hero-in-waiting, or the friend of one.

(24) Any inspector whose investigations are becoming taxing to my operations will be discreetly assassinated. He will not be publicly discredited and jailed.

(25) I will not kill the hero’s honest, senior Judge/Commissioner/Politician/Civil Servant father and establish it as a suicide. That will only infuriate the hero and make trouble for me. I will kill the hero, and the old man will die of depression and cardiac arrest.

(26) I will be a practicing Buddhist. This will give me some spiritual counter when the hero’s wife/mother appeals to Rama/Krishna/Kali/Allah/Christ/Sai Baba etc in the action climax. As a bonus, it will enable me to mingle freely with Richard Gere and Steven Seagal.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Axed Men Three: Superman's Screwed Us Over

For those of you who haven't grasped the meaning of the heading, its that Bryan Singer's exodus has deflated the franchise entirely. What was first comic-afficianado-caviar, and then a decently enjoyable action flick, has degenerated into a cheesy, schmaltzy, hormone-overloaded embarrassment - to Marvel comics, 20th Century Fox and most importantly Stewart and McKellen. It was quite a shame to see two artistes of such legendary stature thrown together in this soppy saga, with only special effects to go for it. Brett Ratner, get adamantium claws shoved up your black hole. And screenplay writers, lets disintegrate you guys telekinetically while we're at it too.

So lets get the story in. At the end of X2, a psycho general had tried to destroy all mutants with an evil telepathic thingie from the lab. To provide a three-quarter twist, Magneto rewired it to kill all humans. Our heroes saved the day, at the cost of Jean Grey who was left at the business end of a super sized water wave from the evil adda's cave in. Having taken the hint, the government has appointed a Secretary of Mutant Affairs. Enter Kelsey Grammar as Dr. Henry McCoy aka Beast. Suit-boot main aa gaya Kelsey with a penchant for hanging upside down. He's called in to look up a major breakthrough - a company has come up with a serum, derived from an angelic bald uber-innocent Chosen-One-type kid's DNA, that suppresses mutation. For ever. They call it a cure.

Predictably, our heroes get all worked up. Mutation isn't a disease. It is preposterous to call it "a cure". We don't want to be cured. There's superhero careers at stake. I mean, Star Trek: TNG and Frasier are over, and Van Helsing was a flop. And what of our Indian compadres? They've just finished getting an additional 50% reservation for themselves at IIT and IIM. [Hysterical thought: What if one were SC/ST?OBC and a girl, and a Mutant at that? I mean, career possibilities are awe-inspiring. Imagine Mandal-X, with all these dudes fighting it over for reservations...]

Back to the story. So everyone's in a tizzy. This mutant girl Rogue who sucks people's energies out upon physical contact is thinking abt it cuz she sees her boyfriend Bobby aka Iceman up for grabs - she can't give him what other girls can (She's specifically jealous of this other mutant, Kitty aka Shadowcat who passes through solid objects unconsciously. (I dont see why. I mean, imagine the sex. "Was that good for you? Was what good for me?")) Meanwhile, the lead lover-boy Cyclops is still heartbroken over his girlfriend's (Jean Grey) death, and spends all his time crying. Then, funnily, he hears her voice in his head.

This is where X3 decides to emulate Scream 3, with it's rules for a trilogy concluding chapter. The rules laid down were roughly as follows:
  1. "You've got a villain who’s gonna be super human. Stabbing and shooting him won’t work, basically in the third one, you gotta cryogenically freeze, decapitate, or blow up."
  2. "Anyone, including the main character, can die."
  3. "The past will come back to bite you...Whatever you think you know about the past, forget it. The past is not at rest, any sins you think were committed in the past are about to break out and destroy you."
  4. "Never, ever under any circumstances go running off by yourself
  5. The body count for a trilogy is always massive, even more than the sequel
Cyclops breaks rule no.4, and rushes off to where she died, to meet her alive, see her levitate stuff, look into her eyes, kiss one of those long vampire-soul-sucker kisses and meet the fate reserved for the sceenwriter. Our undead Jean Grey sends psychic waves that summon the others. They pick her up as she says "Kill me quick, or I'll hurt more people" (Yeah right!!) and Professor X does the once-over on her psyche.

Rule 3 kicks in. Turns out Jean wasn't as in control as we thought. She was awesomely powerful, and her psychic abilities were emotion-linked (If she only knewwww the Pphaoower of the Dark Side). So, to control her, the Prof psy-locked the bulk of her energy, and that apparently split her personality into this intense Carrie-type character (I'm not sure that wasn't the inspiration for this whole piss-up of a story). Anyways, the near-death has awakened the Dark Side, so as he tells Wolverine, Handle with Care. But our hero being the now solo male adult, and so hairy to boot, he awakens her, kisses her, lasts a little longer than his predecessor, and gets Yoda-slammed into the wall.

In the meantime, Magneto's back, and re-organized his gang. Mystique has been forcibly cured, so in her place he's now got a tattoed super-fast girl who senses mutant powers, a dude who replicates in a Naruto-meets-Agent Smith-fashion, a dude who shoots fire (very ala Sasuke's "Katon: Gokakyu no Jutsu")and Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut, a mutant with super strength, invulnerability and a reservoir of soccer-hooligan-chutzpah - the things mutants turn into these days!!. He hears of our Evil Gray, and tracks her down, simultaneous to the X-Men. A fight follows, while Professor X tries to mentally control Evil Gray. Rule 2 kicks in, and the Professor gets disintegrated. NNOOOOOO!!! Magneto, now with Jean Grey (or Phoenix, as she calls herself) raises a second mutant army, and plans to destroy the cure Labs (on Alcatraz) with the kid to boot. He lands in SF, bends the bridge around, and crash lands there. A guerilla war ensues, and the body count rises, in accordance with rule no. 5

The X Men then save the day, with Kelsey Grammar doing this whole animal combat thing (A counselling speech would have been more lethal), Storm hitting out with Sidious-esque finger-lightning bolts, Iceman iceing his way about, and the Shadowcat using nimble brains and colourful language to beat Vinnie Jones. The climax is when Phoenix wakes up again, and now starts disintegrating everything. I mean everything - buildings, guns, ocean, people, mutants, hell even the screen doesn't seem safe. Our hero the Wolverine, lands in near her, counters mutant disintegration as he struggles, and nearing her, delivers a mortal wound by saying "I'd die... for YOU!!!!". This, delivered from a rapidly disintegrating Hugh Jackman, is predictably killing. Phoenix is stunned. Our hero kisses her and stabs her at the same time, obeying rule no. 1, and bringing a dramatic, if pretentious end to the whole thing.

The President is overjoyed, Beast is now UN Ambassador, the X Men Academy is formally recognized and given Harvard accreditation, Storm is Principal, Professor X, Jean and Cyclops are buried side-by-side, and I imagine Arjun Singh gets his Mutant Reservation bill passed by an even more overwhelming majority than his OBC quota bill. The Rogue girl is cured, and can now kiss safely, some dude who's son's a winged mutant is now proud of him, and the only unhappy person is Magneto, who's struggling to levitate metal chess pieces. In a desperate attempt to salvage the franchise by leaving the possibility for a quadro-thingie, a piece vibrates a bit. Credits roll......

All in all: Watch it if you've ten year old's to entertain on a day when Ponnuswamy's is closed. No othr reason whatsoever exists to put 80 bucks per head into Rupert Murdoch's pocket for this. And as mentioned before, shove metal claws up Ratner if you meet him.